This Month is National Stroke Awareness Month – Learn About Stroke

Hot Health
By Hot Health May 7, 2018 18:36
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May is National Stroke Awareness Month

Strokes are the 5th leading cause of death in the United States. Each year there are nearly 800,000 strokes in the United States. About 610,000 of those strokes are a person’s first attack. The other 185,000 are recurrent strokes. Every 40 seconds someone in the United States suffers from a stroke.

Every year, about 140,000 people in the US die from a stroke. That translates to about 1 in 20 deaths or one death every four minutes. Many others are left with serious disabilities.

Strokes are not exclusive to the United States. Each year, 15 million people worldwide suffer from strokes. Five million of those people die and another 5 million are left permanently disabled.

There are two different types of strokes. First is the ischemic stroke. This occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked. Ischemic strokes account for 87% of all strokes. It is important to note that the risk of an ischemic stroke in current smokers is almost double that of nonsmokers. The other type of stroke is a hemorrhagic stroke. This happens when a blood vessel in the brain leaks or bursts.

It is crucial that people recognize the signs and symptoms of strokes. These symptoms can be summed up using the FAST acronym.

  • The F stands for face drooping. This could include an uneven smile, facial numbness, and/or visual disturbances. Also, be sure to note if there is a sudden headache with no known cause.
  • The A stands for arm weakness. If a person holds both arms out in front of them and one of them falls to their side, this is a classic sign of a stroke. However, this “A” also includes numbness (especially on one side of the body) and/or difficulty walking. Take special note of any dizziness, loss of balance, or loss of coordination.
  • The S stands for speech difficulty. This can include any change in speech like slurring, sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding, using the wrong words, and being unable to speak.
  • The T stands for time to call 911. Time is crucial in stroke treatment, so if you think you or someone you know may be suffering from a stroke, call for help right away. You need to get to the emergency room immediately. Keep in mind that a person does not need to be suffering from all these symptoms to be having a stroke. They may only present with one symptom.

It is incredibly important to receive fast treatment if you are having a stroke. Stroke sufferers who arrive at the ER within three hours of their first symptoms have less disability three months after their stroke than those who received delayed care. In a survey, 93% of people recognized sudden numbness on one side of the body as a stroke symptom. However, only 38% of respondents were able to recognize the other symptoms and/or knew to call 911.

Risk Factors for Stroke

There are many risk factors that may make a person more likely to have a stroke. Some of these we can’t control. One of these factors that we can’t control is race. African Americans and Hispanics are at a higher risk of stroke than White Americans. They also have a higher death rate due to stroke. Another uncontrollable risk factor is age. One’s risk of having a stroke doubles each decade after age 55. Although strokes can and do occur at any age, about 75% of all strokes occur in people over 65. More women than men suffer strokes. A few reasons for this could be that women typically live longer than men. Also, birth control pills, pregnancy, and hormone replacement therapy (to relieve menopause symptoms) can increase risk of stroke. Finally, if you have a family history of stroke, you are more likely to suffer one yourself.

Some other risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes. One-third of all US adults have at least one of those conditions. The common diet in the US is also high in fat – especially trans fat – which is also detrimental to one’s health. A poor diet and/or lack of exercise can contribute to a stroke as well. These things can lead to a high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. It is a good practice to try to get at least 30 minutes of activity per day. Drinking too much alcohol can also predispose you to a stroke.

Your own medical history can also be a contributing factor. If you have had a transient ischemic attack or TIA, your risk of stroke is increased. Atrial fibrillation is also a risk factor. Carotid and other artery diseases can also lead to a stroke. When arteries are narrowed by fatty deposits or plaque, these arteries can become blocked leading to ischemic strokes. Sleep apnea and prior strokes also increase your risk.

An interesting risk factor is simply being born in a certain part of the country. An area in the southeastern United States called the “Stroke Belt” has a high rate of strokes. This area is in the Mississippi Valley and includes North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Simply being born in these states increases your chance of having a stroke even if you move to a different part of the country. There is a 22% increase for African Americans and a 30% increase for White Americans. This could be due to certain risk factors like poor diet, smoking, and obesity which often start earlier in southern states.

It is important to know your risk factors and be mindful of your chances of stroke. The most important risk factor is high blood pressure. Watch your diet and try to exercise each day to minimize your chances of stroke. If you or someone you know is having a stroke, call 911 so they can receive medical treatment immediately.

To learn more:

American Stroke Association

The Internet Stroke Center

Hot Health
By Hot Health May 7, 2018 18:36
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